Shaun Johnson just about willed the Sharks to victory at soaked Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, but the halfback's three missed goals allowed the Eels to pinch a 14-12 win on Sunday.
Parramatta playmaker Mitch Moses landed a 69th-minute penalty to go along with his two conversions that proved the difference in an entertaining, frantic match.
Johnson was omnipresent, producing an incredible try-saving tackle in the first half, applying pressure with his astute general play kicking including a pinpoint 40/20 and setting up two tries.
The in-form veteran has now recorded 18 try assists for the season, five more than Roosters pivot Luke Keary in second.
But he couldn’t drag the team across the line and into fifth place on the ladder. Instead, they're in eighth while the Eels are one point off competition leaders Penrith.
Match: Sharks v Eels
Round 13 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
Another brilliant Kiwi, Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown, had a big influence on the result. The 20-year-old sold two huge dummies to score the opening try and lay on another.
The pelting rain created some handling errors but the sides displayed tremendous skill and flair to put on an engaging battle.
Parramatta had the first chance to score when Brown placed a grubber behind Cronulla's defence but winger Maika Sivo couldn't ground it.
Sharks captain Wade Graham, playing his 200th match for the club, was on song with his left boot in the early stages as he found space and forced a dropout.
But the Eels wised up as Moses trapped another attacking kick from the second-rower and took off downfield. The No.7 looked like scoring a long-range ripper until a flying Johnson bundled him into touch 20 metres from the try-line.
A Ronaldo Mulitalo yardage error hurt Cronulla. Moments after possession changed, Brown faked to pass from dummy-half and bagged the opening try for Parramatta in the 20th minute.
Moses then forced consecutive repeat sets through smart grubbers but just as he'd done to Graham earlier, his next kick was stopped by Cronulla five-eighth Matt Moylan who dashed upfield.
Now in attacking range, Johnson nudged a kick that suddenly held up before the dead-ball line thanks to the soggy turf, allowing centre Jesse Ramien to get the Sharks on the board.
Johnson had seemingly put the Sharks in front shortly afterwards. This time the right-footed playmaker skilfully stepped and trickled the ball ahead with his left boot, but the chasing Mulitalo was ruled offside and Parramatta led 6-4 at half-time.
As in the first term, a massive Brown dummy resulted in an Eels try. The young pivot offloaded for prop Kane Evans to cross for his third four-pointer of 2020.
With the rain growing ever more torrential, Parramatta winger Blake Ferguson dropped a regulation Johnson clearing kick and invited the Sharks to hit back. Johnson sustained the pressure, with his deflected grubber trapping the visitors in-goal.
Mulitalo with the backwards put down
On the last tackle of the ensuing set, Johnson fired a cut-out pass to Mulitalo, who juggled the ball but reeled it in to close the gap.
Johnson continued his dominance by kicking a 40/20 in the set after points, with Eels fullback Clint Gutherson unable to keep the ball in play.
Mulitalo powered in for his double off the back of it courtesy of a Will Kennedy pass. Johnson's missed conversion meant that scores stayed level.
Adding to a bizarre encounter, Parramatta managed to win a scrum against the feed in good field position.
Dylan Brown and the biggest dummy ever
Soon after, a penalty against Sharks enforcer Braden Hamlin-Uele for taking Reagan Campbell-Gillard off the ball allowed Moses to slot the difference-making two points.
It was an unfortunate ending for the Sharks, with Josh Dugan bringing up his 200th NRL match and Jesse Ramien his 50th but they weren't able to celebrate with a win.